Kids love motorcycles.
In all my two wheeled travels, that seems to be a universal constant. An image from a recent ride has stuck in my head that demonstrates that. An older man was walking up the road with a small child. The man was staring off into the woods as I approached – aware of me but not too concerned or interested. The child, on the other hand, pointed at me, all wide eyed with wonder. I waved. The man didn’t notice, but the child was full of glee at the sight of the guy on a motorcycle. This is one instance, but it happens to me all the time. Whether they’re walking down the street, in yards, or riding in cars I go by, kids notice my bike, and they love it, smile, and sometimes wave.
My PC800 is a rather pretty, shiny bike, all red with a few extra lights. But this has been going on since I had my Suzuki GS550E, a classic Universal Japanese Motorcycle. It was a good bike but nothing fancy or special – other than being a motorcycle, of course, yet clearly that is enough to catch kids’ attention.
I’m not sure what it is. And I’ve been there myself. Growing up, my dad had a Honda 450 of some kind. One of my earliest memories is when he sat me on the bike in front of him and we did a few laps around our house at walking pace through our yard. Another is when he ran out of gas across town, and my mom and I hopped into our Bright Friggin Yellow VW Super Beetle to go rescue him.
I saw way too many episodes of CHiPs at a young, impressionable age, and I blame – or credit, depending on your point of view – that show for much of my interest in motorcycles. It was not only the excitement of watching Ponch and Jon looking cool while cruising around, but also the idea that the bikers were the good guys, not some grungy biker gang that rolled in to terrorize the town.
Now, the glove is on the other foot, as it were. When I park my bike at home after a ride, any neighborhood kids in the area flock to me like I’m the Pied Piper. If I’m heading out for a ride, they want to race me on their bicycles, scooters, or whatever they have. I humor them – we line up, one of the girls waves her arms to start the race, and off we go. I rev the engine a little to make it sound fast, but I make it a close race, and sometimes I give them a thrill and let them win.
I’m not really a kid person. I never felt the urge to have any of my own, and I admit I’m not particularly comfortable around them for any length of time. But I realize that as I ride in and out of the parking lot, dressed head to toe in protective gear, I look kind of like a superhero to them. Maybe in their minds, I am. I have to uphold that image, or at least not tarnish or destroy it – both as their neighbor and as a biker.
What is it about bikes and the people who ride them that kids love so much? Maybe it’s something that they, often as bicyclists, can relate to – hence the urge to race me, as though we’re on equal ground. Or maybe it’s the same thing that draws many of us to motorcycles regardless of age – the allure of the open road, and the feeling of freedom that comes from riding a bike. What kid wouldn’t enjoy taking off on an adventure to who knows where? I sure do – I did as a kid, and I do now. Maybe those kids and I aren’t really as different as I think we are.